God’s Manifest Presence

23rd May, 2013 - Posted by Claire Larsen - No Comments

A friend and I have been discussing A.W. Tozer’s book The Attributes of God, and every time I read a portion of it, I feel as though I’m transported into the heavens. God is utterly and completely amazing, and Tozer captures the awesomeness of God.

In the book Tozer describes the difference between God’s omnipresence and God’s manifest presence. The manifest presence of God is an entirely new concept to me (at least in the way Tozer names and defines it), and it answers a couple questions that I have pondered over throughout the years: 1) Why does it matter if I do the right thing when I can do the wrong thing and receive God’s forgiveness, and 2) How can I feel closer to God?  We know the answers to those questions, but our answers aren’t always helpful to us.

Tozer explains that the omnipotent God is everywhere. There is no place, not even hell, where God’s presence is absent. If there were just one spot in the entire universe where God wasn’t present, He would not be omnipresent. Instead, He’d be omnipresent except ____, but that negates the totality of the word omnipresent.

So, God is everywhere, but at the same time His manifest presence is only in two places: in heaven and with His people. God is holy and morally perfect in every way. People are sinful and morally imperfect. This dissimilarity makes it impossible for God to dwell in the hearts of sinful people. He can’t be close to them and live in relationship with them.

What’s God’s solution? God through the Holy Spirit regenerates sinful hearts and draws people to Himself. Those that God calls, regenerates, justifies, and adopts as His children are now different. They are cleansed from all sin, the Spirit dwells within them, and they are now morally similar to God. Not perfect of course, and the similarity is not a total similarity, but it’s there. Now the Holy God can be close to the redeemed people, and we, His people, have the blessedness of God’s manifest presence.

This also means that the more morally similar to God we become, the more we enjoy the benefits of God’s manifest presence. But how do we become more morally similar to God? I believe this happens in two ways. First, when we choose to obey God instead of disobey God and ask for forgiveness later, we are becoming more similar to God. Second, when we immerse ourselves in Scripture such that thinking about sin, values, priorities, and all of life corresponds to the way God sees the world, we are becoming more similar to God.

So, in answer to the questions above … why should we do what’s right?  We should chose righteousness over sin because each time we do, we become a little more similar to God.  What does it mean to have a relationship with God and how can I feel closer to Him?  The answer is the same. We should choose righteousness over sin, and as we become more like God, we feel His presence more and feel closer to Him.

This concept answered questions I’ve struggled with for a long time. Now I must pray that God will continue to give me a heart that craves His manifest presence and will give me the grace I need to make choices that help me become more like Him.

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